SUSPICION — FANNY IS SENT FOR
Bathsheba said very little to her husband all that evening of their return from market, and he was not disposed to say much to her. He exhibited the unpleasant combination of a restless condition with a silent tongue. The next day, which was Sunday, passed nearly in the same manner as regarded their taciturnity, Bathsheba going to church both morning and afternoon. This was the day before the Budmouth races. In the evening Troy said, suddenly —
"Bathsheba, could you let me have twenty pounds?"
Her countenance instantly sank. "Twenty pounds?" she said.
"The fact is, I want it badly." The anxiety upon Troy's face was unusual and very marked. It was a culmination of the mood he had been in all the day.
"Ah! for those races to-morrow."
Troy for the moment made no reply. Her mistake had its advantages to a man who shrank from having his mind inspected as he did now. "Well, suppose I do want it for races?" he said, at last.
"Oh, Frank!" Bathsheba replied, and there was such a volume of entreaty in the words. "Only such a few weeks ago you said that I was far sweeter than all your other pleasures put together, and that you would give them all up for me; and now, won't you give up this one, which is more a worry than a pleasure? Do, Frank. Come, let me fascinate you by all I can do — by pretty words and pretty looks, and everything I can think of — to stay at home. Say yes to your wife — say yes!"
The tenderest and softest phases of Bathsheba's nature were prominent now — advanced impulsively for his acceptance, without any of the disguises and defences which the wariness of her character when she was cool too frequently threw over them. Few men could have resisted the arch yet dignified entreaty of the beautiful face, thrown a little back and sideways in the well known attitude that expresses more than the words it accompanies, and which seems to have been designed for these special occasions. Had the woman not been his wife, Troy would have succumbed instantly; as it was, he thought he would not deceive her longer.
"The money is not wanted for racing debts at all," he said.
"What is it for?" she asked. "You worry me a great deal by these mysterious responsibilities, Frank."
Troy hesitated. He did not now love her enough to allow himself to be carried too far by her ways. Yet it was necessary to be civil. "You wrong me by such a suspicious manner," he said. "Such strait-waistcoating as you treat me to is not becoming in you at so early a date."
"I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I pay," she said, with features between a smile and a pout.
"Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we proceed to the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well, but don't go too far, or you may have cause to regret something."
She reddened. "I do that already," she said, quickly.
"What do you regret?"
"That my romance has come to an end."
"All romances end at marriage."
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that. You grieve me to my soul by being smart at my expense."
"You are dull enough at mine. I believe you hate me."
"Not you — only your faults. I do hate them."
"'Twould be much more becoming if you set yourself to cure them. Come, let's strike a balance with the twenty pounds, and be friends."
She gave a sigh of resignation. "I have about that sum here for household expenses. If you must have it, take it."
"Very good. Thank you. I expect I shall have gone away before you are in to breakfast to-morrow."
"And must you go? Ah! there was a time, Frank, when it would have taken a good many promises to other people to drag you away from me. You used to call me darling, then. But it doesn't matter to you how my days are passed now."
"I must go, in spite of sentiment." Troy, as he spoke, looked at his watch, and, apparently actuated by non lucendo principles, opened the case at the back, revealing, snugly stowed within it, a small coil of hair.
Bathsheba's eyes had been accidentally lifted at that moment, and she saw the action and saw the hair. She flushed in pain and surprise, and some words escaped her before she had thought whether or not it was wise to utter them. "A woman's curl of hair!" she said. "Oh, Frank, whose is that?"
Troy had instantly closed his watch. He carelessly replied, as one who cloaked some feelings that the sight had stirred. "Why, yours, of course. Whose should it be? I had quite forgotten that I had it."
"What a dreadful fib, Frank!"
"I tell you I had forgotten it!" he said, loudly.
"I don't mean that — it was yellow hair."
"That's insulting me. I know it was yellow. Now whose was it? I want to know."
"Very well — I'll tell you, so make no more ado. It is the hair of a young woman I was going to marry before I knew you."
"You ought to tell me her name, then."
"I cannot do that."
"Is she married yet?"